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[Fifth Amended - applicable to all civil actions filed in the Superior Court]
Applicable to all counties
Responding to and complying with the directive of the Supreme Judicial Court for ". . . an attack on excessive delay and excessive cost of court proceedings . . ." and in an effort to "secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action," Mass.R.Civ.P. 1, the Justices of the Superior Court, through our Chief Justice, hereby adopt these time standards as a standing order of the Superior Court ("Standing Order"). The Court recognizes that the litigation process is memory dependent. To the extent that memory dims or becomes unreliable over prolonged periods of time, a just determination may be jeopardized. The concept of early and continuous judicial supervision and control is intended to enhance the quality of litigation and ensure that justice is fairly rendered.
This Standing Order recognizes that there are viable alternative methods of dispute resolution that may avoid delay and reduce the expense inherent in court proceedings, such as mediation, arbitration, summary jury trials, mini-trials, and reference to masters. Such alternate methods of dispute resolution are compatible with the case management objectives of these time standards. Nothing in this Standing Order shall act as a bar to any form of early intervention by the Court to identify cases suitable for alternative dispute resolution.
The Court recognizes and is sensitive to the impact that this Standing Order will have on local legal culture. We have meticulously avoided intrusion into this rich culture except to the extent necessary to preserve to the Court its responsibility to manage the pace of litigation without disturbing the harmony of the trial bar.
Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED that:
(1) All civil actions filed in the Superior Court shall be subject to the provisions of this Standing Order.
(2) This Standing Order is applicable to all counties.
(3) The Court will schedule trial dates for both jury and jury-waived cases on its own initiative.
(1) All civil actions shall be designated for purposes of this standing order as falling within one of three tracks based upon the nature of the case:
Fast Track ("F")
Average Track ("A")
Accelerated Track ("X")
A listing of case types by track is set forth in Schedules F, A, and X below.
(2) The plaintiff shall indicate the nature of the action and the appropriate track designation on the civil action cover sheet.
(3) For good cause shown, a party may move that a case be designated to a track other than the track selected by the plaintiff on the civil action cover sheet. The motion shall comply with Superior Court Rule 9A, and shall be referred to the attention of the Session Judge.
(1) By order of the court, or stipulation of the parties, a civil action shall be assigned to its own individual track, which shall supersede the requirements of this standing order, provided that all deadlines in the individual track occur no later than the tracking order dates applicable to the case type, as established by the "Schedules of Case Types by Track," below.
(2) Any party wishing assignment to an individual track must complete and submit the form "Motion for Case-Specific Management" appearing in the Appendix of Forms to the Superior Court Rules and available for download on the Superior Court's website. See Superior Court Rule 20.
(3) The session judge assigned to the case will endorse the Motion in accordance with Superior Court Rules 9A and 20.
While the clerk shall provide notice to all parties and their counsel of the track designation and corresponding tracking deadlines, the final responsibility for obtaining information from the clerk about the designation of the case and the corresponding tracking order shall rest with each party. Notification shall occur as follows:
(1) The cover sheet will alert parties to the existence of this Standing Order and to the track designation.
(2) Upon the filing of an action and in accordance with the track designated by the plaintiff, the clerk shall issue a tracking order that establishes the tracking deadlines for completion of the stages of litigation. Specific dates for the tracking deadlines shall be included in the tracking order.
(3) After 90 days from the filing of the action, the clerk shall forward a copy of the tracking order to all counsel of record. Counsel who appear in the action after the expiration of 90 days shall be responsible to learn the tracking deadlines for completing the stages of the litigation.
(4) All motions shall be filed within the time prescribed by the tracking order unless the proponent of the motion first moves for and obtains leave of court to file beyond the designated tracking deadline.
(5) All pleadings, appearances, and other papers filed by counsel of record shall be accompanied by counsel's Board of Bar Overseers (BBO) Number. The BBO Number shall appear immediately after counsel's signature, address and telephone number.
This Standing Order anticipates that there will be instances when the designation of a case to a particular track is inappropriate or the tracking deadlines cannot reasonably be met. The court recognizes that there are cases which by their very nature require special tracking deadlines, and the system is sufficiently flexible to accommodate these cases as follows:
(1) Amendments to the tracking order of a case may be granted upon motion, filed in accordance with Superior Court Rule 9A, and for good cause shown.
(2) All motions to amend a tracking deadline shall be referred to the attention of the Session Judge for decision. Motions (or oppositions thereto) shall be submitted on the papers, without oral argument.
This Standing Order also recognizes that the parties may benefit from a conference under Mass. R. Civ. P. 16 to address various matters that may aid in resolving a case or reducing the time or expense of litigation. Any party may ask the Court for a Rule 16 conference, and such requests will be honored if reasonable. The Court may also schedule a Rule 16 conference on its own initiative. Telephonic conferences may be arranged with the permission of the Court.
A pilot program will be established for qualifying cases in which the clerk of court shall schedule a Case Management Conference as soon as practicable, but in any event within ninety (90) days after service of process. The following case types qualify for the pilot program: A08, Real Estate; A12, Construction; B05, Products Liability; and B22, Employment Discrimination. For any other types of cases in which all parties assent to the scheduling of a Case Management Conference, such a conference shall be scheduled. If fewer than all parties assent, one or more parties may serve a motion requesting such a conference.
In preparation for the Case Management Conference, the parties are required to confer, complete and file a Joint Case Management Statement and Proposed Order. The minimum requirements of the Joint Case Management Statement and Proposed Order are attached to and made part of this Standing Order as Appendix A. The Joint Case Management Statement is to be filed with the court on the date of the Case Management Conference. The plaintiff is required to circulate the first draft of the Joint Case Management Statement and Proposed Order no later than three (3) weeks before the Case Management Conference.
The date established for the Case Management Conference does not preclude the filing of a motion seeking an earlier Case Management Conference where appropriate. Discovery and all other aspects of the case may proceed among the parties, in accordance with applicable rules and the initial presumptive tracking order, pending the Case Management Conference.
Unless otherwise ordered by the judge, counsel for the parties must confer at least fourteen (14) days before the date for the Case Management Conference for the purpose of:
preparing an agenda of matters to be discussed at the Case Management Conference; and
completing the Joint Case Management Statement and Proposed Order.
Unless otherwise ordered by the judge, the plaintiff shall present written settlement proposals to all defendants no later than three (3) weeks before the date for the Case Management Conference. Defense counsel shall have conferred with their clients on the subject of settlement before the Case Management Conference and present a written response to the plaintiff's settlement proposals no later than three (3) business days before the Case Management Conference. Neither the written settlement proposal nor the written response is to be filed in court.
Case management conferences shall be presided over by a judge who may:
Explore the possibility of alternative dispute resolution including court-connected alternative dispute resolution where available.
Inquire as to the utility of the parties conducting settlement negotiations, explore means of facilitating those negotiations, and offer whatever assistance may be appropriate in the circumstances. Assistance may include a reference of the case to another judge for settlement purposes. Whenever a settlement conference with a judge is held, a representative of each party who has settlement authority shall attend or be available by telephone.
Identify or formulate (or order the attorneys to formulate) the principal issues in contention;
prepare (or order the attorneys to prepare) a specific discovery schedule and discovery plan that, if the presiding judge deems appropriate, might:
(a) limit discovery to avoid unnecessary or unduly burdensome discovery;
(b) sequence discovery into two or more stages; and
(c) include time limits set for the completion of discovery;
establish deadlines for filing motions and a time framework for their disposition;
provide for the "phased resolution" or "bifurcation" of issues for hearing or trial; and
explore any other matter that the judge determines is appropriate for the fair and efficient management of the litigation.
All self-represented litigants shall appear in person. All other parties shall be represented by lead counsel. The court reserves the right to require that the parties themselves or their claims representative appear at the Case Management Conference. All counsel attending are required to be fully familiar with the case and have complete authority regarding all aspects of the conduct of the litigation.
Nothing in this rule shall be construed to prevent the convening of additional Case Management Conferences or Rule 16 Conferences by the court as may be appropriate in the circumstances of the particular case.
The following tracking deadlines shall be mandatory except as modified by order of the Session Judge or Regional Administrative Justice. Documents filed outside the tracking deadlines without leave of court need not be acted upon by the Court, even if filed by agreement between the parties. The tracking deadlines for F and A Track cases will be calculated from the date of filing of the complaint.
The remaining tracking deadlines assume that a motion for summary judgment has been filed. If no summary judgment motion is filed, earlier tracking deadlines may be set by the Court.
The remaining Tracking Deadlines assume that a motion for summary judgment will be filed. If no summary judgment motion is filed, earlier tracking dates can be set by the Court.
Any case not reached for trial or otherwise disposed of within the prescribed tracking deadline shall be referred to the attention of the Regional Administrative Justice who shall coordinate with the Session Judge to ensure a speedy disposition within the session or to reassign the case to another session.
A record shall be maintained by the Regional Administrative Justice of all cases not tried or otherwise not disposed of as required under this Standing Order setting forth the reason for the trial delay and the action taken to resolve the matter.
Shortly before each jury trial, the court shall hold a final trial conference unless otherwise ordered by the session judge or Regional Administrative Justice. The clerk shall schedule the final trial conference to occur before the trial judge whenever possible and shall notify all parties of the time, date and location of the final trial conference.
In cases to be tried by jury, the clerk's notice shall inform the parties that:
The purpose of the final trial conference is to discuss the matters set forth in Superior Court Rule 6(2)(a) and other matters that may arise at trial, without limitation those matters set forth in subparagraph 2(b) below, as well as the estimated length of the trial; any scheduling constraints affecting witnesses or other trial participants; any need for an interpreter for a party or witness, including the specific language involved and the date and time when interpretation is required; the number of jurors to be seated; any agreement to allow deliberation by fewer jurors if seated jurors are dismissed post-empanelment; the content and method of employing any supplemental juror questionnaire; the number of peremptories; the order and timing of the parties' assertions of challenges for cause and peremptory challenges; and any other matter affecting the efficiency and fairness of the trial.
At or before the final trial conference, the parties must submit the following unless otherwise ordered by the court:
i. a final joint witness list (if different from the final pretrial conference memo), showing each witness's city or town of residence except where doing so would endanger the witness's safety;
ii. a final joint statement of the case to read to the jury (if different from the final pretrial conference memo);
iii. a joint list of agreed exhibits (as required by Appendix B hereto);
iv. a list of contested exhibits (as required by Appendix B hereto);
v. a copy of any deposition transcript to be offered at trial, with objections highlighted for action by the court (as required by the last paragraph of Appendix B hereto);
vi. any proposed voir dire questions to be asked by the court;
vii. any motion requesting voir dire procedures, including proposed method and subject matter of any attorney or party voir dire and any proposed supplemental juror questionnaire;
viii. any requested pre-charge to be given by the judge before or during empanelment, or immediately after the jury is sworn;
ix. any motions in limine, specifically identifying motions in limine that affect empanelment or opening statements and stating whether each motion in limine is opposed, partially opposed, or unopposed;
x. any stipulation of fact to be read to the jury.
The parties must confer at least 48 hours before the final trial conference to discuss the matters set forth in subparagraphs 2(a) and 2(b) above.
* Excluding claims against the Commonwealth or a municipality, which are type E03 cases under Schedule ‘A’ (Average Track).